I’m learning to take deep breaths, to not clench my jaw all the time, to listen to the cicadas and birds, I’m taking long walks through Chinatown with Jade looking for the perfect parasols for her bridesmaids, I’m sending press releases and emails, making posters and web site ads for my new show, I’m sitting with the back door open and the breeze is coming through, I’m wearing skirts and sandals, I’m writing with Becca, I’m consuming pints of ice cream and veggie hot dogs, I’m singing with Jeff’s acoustic guitar, I’m catching up on life.
Directions from self-repair manual
Let things go. You are haunted by ghosts in the curtains and under the stairs. There is nothing there. Let things go.
Keep the end of your cigarette lit because who knows if you have another match?
Let things go.
On Friday night, I finished my last grad school assignment at 6:55 and Jeff arrived at 7 to drive with me to Omaha, Nebraska. We were going to meet his parents, meet his friends, see a free Bright Eyes concert and chill in the suburban-urban wonderland of the big O. By 8pm I was packed and out the door, but with a sneaking feeling that I hadn’t finished everything. I’d been expecting a huge sigh of relief to just flood over me. I was expecting instant enlightenment. Instead I just felt like I was going away for the weekend with too much on my mind. Luckily a brisk 8-hour drive was a good distraction (Jeff got pulled over twice, and acquired one warning and one ticket in the space of four hours).
Also a good distraction? Meeting his family, looking for the little facial features and behavioral quirks that run in his bloodline, then driving around Omaha and learning where [insert failed chain store] used to be. That night we went to the Bright Eyes concert… in the pouring rain. We huddled under an umbrella and watched the clouds swirl overhead. Afterwards we carvanned to the Village Inn (mmm… two-egg breakfast) with his high school friends.
By the time we got home on Sunday, Janelle was set to arrive in approximately two hours, just enough time for some dinner and driving Jeff home. Now Janelle and her friend Anne are here, and we’ve been having a lovely girly time listening to Anne play guitar, making dinner, drinking wine, shopping, wandering, sitting by the lake. They’re leaving tomorrow morning, and then I need to figure out what to do with this silent vacuum I’ll be living in.
I’m definitely not complaining about the coming silence. The last day was a mad chaotic rush to pack up my classroom, turn in keys, forge some documents and get out as quickly as possible. I saw some of my favorites who came back to say hello and pick up their report cards. (Ok, mostly to pick up their report cards.) Bridget was acting strange, hanging out with Shaquila in my room while I was trying to do my attendance records. (She hated me all year.) Ricky forgot to bring in the rest of his horror novel. Dajia and Brannick promised to write me emails over the summer. (I never had them as students, so I would be totally happy to hear from them.) I am left wondering why I sound so bitter and jaded, so raw, after such a short time, and hoping that those feelings fade as my tan lines grow darker.
I think I’m done with the school year. No really, I think the last day just happened. I mean, I would be more sure about it, but really, I can’t seem to wrap my mind around this idea that I will not have to go back there for another day. I just keep expecting a phone call from the school secretary, expecting the admins to tack something on to the end, expecting students to maybe have followed me home… they’ll start pounding on the doors any minute now, and I’ll start shoving chairs and bookselves against the entrances like in Shaun of the Dead.
Today was just a mad dash trying to throw out everything that needed to be tossed, handing out report cards, saying last goodbyes to the kids who’d stopped in. It was over before I could blink; suddenly I was in the Buick with four empty milk crates and one full of my books and papers. I’d said goodbye to Dajia & Brannick, I’d heard an inspirational farewell from Haywood, I’d handed in my screwed-up attendance rosters and dropped my keys in the assistant principal’s mailbox. I was simply done. I am done.
Around 12:30pm, my stomach started flip-flopping; I was a bundle of twelve emotions at once. Nine minutes until the end of 6th period — forever. When it was all over, and the bell had rung and they’d cleared out at last, I stood, paralyzed, next to the bookcase. And I couldn’t help but smile. Dr. C. came in and saw me, and immediately said I looked, “beatific.” Which I guess means I was beaming. He said it was the happiest he’d ever seen me look within the walls of the school.
A natural antidepressant
If you ever want a mood-lifter, and are up for some invisible theater action, try this: Go to Navy Pier with a clipboard and wear a nametag. Ask people to take a quick survey (say it’s for a class, if they ask.) If they agree, ask them to tell you the last good deed that they did. It’s a guaranteed way to brighten your day.
When we tried this on Saturday, we learned that people had done such things as: helped a friend stay out of the Latin Kings gang, flew in from Florida to visit family members in Chicago, helped a woman with her crying toddler outside the mall, helped an old lady with her luggage, and, oddly, decided to get married even though his wife’s family disagreed. After hearing about their good deed, we offered to reward people with either a hug, money (loose change), a sticker proclaiming their good deed, or a standing ovation. Several people choose the “standing ovation” reward, which was my favorite. The other 8 members of our class, who’d been standing innocuously nearby, suddenly burst into loud applause.
Thus ends my 6-week Neofuturist class.
Six teaching days remain. So close. Yet so far. It’s June now. We flipped the calendar to June, and it’s a picture of flowers blooming in a garden. Seems appropriate, fertile new life and all that. Summer. Harvest. Renewal. Getting the heck out of dodge.
My fifth period, if it were a symphony, would have sounded like this.
Reading.//lowtalkingmurmurscuffle//AHHH! SHE’S HITTING ME!//**stop it.** whining whimper scuffle…//I’M TRYING TO READ!//cell phone rings. **stop it.** //garbled announcement about a turquoise coupe blocking the loading dock//cortez: that’s my car! james: that’s my car!//SHUDDUP! I’M TRYING TO READ!!!//**stop it.** Reading. Reading. //car announcement//cortez points to self and smiles: that’s my CAR!//lowtalkingmurmurscuffle//knock on the door//SOMEONE AT YOUR DOOR!//sobbing…. SOBbing. SOBBING! //toyia’s crying!!! why she crying!!! she’s ugly!!!//usher toyia out of the room//sobbing, tears, snot, mumbling. //she’s CRYING!//I’M READING!!!//cell phone rings.**stop it.** toyia returns scuffle sniffle. paul writes “ASS PARADE” on the blackboard scratch//swish, wipe it back off.//argue with paul ARGUE WITH PAUL//**read!** Reading. Reading. lowtalkingmurmurscuffle. //BELL.//